29 March 2021

First and Last Scooter: J series starstream

A recent Merry Motoring reader has shared the story of their first and last ever scooter.

"'In the Summertime' (Mungo Jerry), was at number one when I got my first scooter in the Summer of 1970. I had just left school aged 16 and started work in a Bank. A little time earlier I had seen a group of Lambrettas on the seafront near Lytham, St Annes and was absorbed by the style and confidence they seemed to reflect on their owners.

So, when I saw an advert in the local paper for a three-year-old J Series Starstream 125 cc at £60 (no shillings/no pence) I had no hesitation, I went to get it with a friend who rode home with me on the back. My first Insurance premium was around £5 for the year which I expect will have included the broker's commission! 

I never thought of myself as a 'Mod,' but with a suit and tie under my Parka for work, it may have looked like I was making some effort. Once my boss learned I had transport I was often sent on errands delivering urgent letters or bundles of deeds and the freedom away from the office was fantastic.

Weekends of course were even better with trips to the coast featuring, Blackpool and Morecambe, along with many others. As you might have guessed it was never about speed, I don't think I ever topped 50mph on the flat, it was more about the journey, destination and independence. The scooter was a massive part of my life at that time, I rode it everywhere I went and in all weathers.   

Sadly, that dream ended after just 18 months. The Starstream was stolen from outside work and I remember being both surprised and disappointed that the Police wouldn't send a search party out to look for it. I walked around the back streets for a while and unbelievably found it myself, completely trashed by the side of the road.  By whatever means I got it to a nearby bike shop and went home to make my first ever Insurance claim.

After a few weeks, a cheque arrived for £60 in a settlement but with no further explanation. I went to the bike shop armed with the funds to pay for repairs, but it wasn't to be. They wouldn't even tell me where the Starstream was only that it wasn't my scooter anymore. With a life, lesson learned I accepted the need to move on, so I took the driving test in my dad's Mini and entered another phase, although that first love has never been forgotten. 

It seems both my sons have inherited the scooter gene. My eldest lives in Tenerife and gets to ride pretty much every day in the sunshine. My other son is more local and owns a 1960s Lambretta Cento 100 (also J Series) which is very much original, even down to the paintwork. He likes the 'patina' that suggests its history.

Anyway, we are now in 2021. I have no idea what's number one in the charts but on Sunday 28 February my younger son arranged an unexpected gift; I took delivery of a 1966 Lambretta Starstream. He tells me the previous owner knows a bit about Lambrettas and also has a love for the J Series, so I trust it has come from a good home. A friendly lady named Lucy at Footman James has accepted slightly more than a fiver to insure it and I am looking forward to some fair-weather rides over the Summer months. 'Full circle' as the saying goes, albeit over 51 years!

There are a couple of great, early publicity photographs out there featuring Jean Shrimpton the 1960s icon and supermodel with a Starstream. I think it was originally intended to rival the smaller Vespa/s of the time, but Vespa was already too well established, and production of the Js lasted just a few years. I also hear that sometimes the J Series is described as 'unloved' and that they can be awkward to work on but that is not my experience. There are still a few around, so they definitely have something after some 55 years. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all!"

Do you have a classic vehicle you have fond memories of? If so why not share your story with us, it could be featured in the next Merry Motoring newsletter and our website.